Tag Archives: terrorism

Real and fake terrorists bring Israel-based TV cooking competition mayhem and edgy humor

The Two-Plate Solution: A Novel of Culinary Mayhem in the Middle East, by Jeff Oliver. Bancroft Press. 224 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

Do you like something zany? Something that risks going out of bounds? Something that mixes hilarity with an acute awareness of our addiction to so-called reality television and social media? It’s here at last in Jeff Oliver’s tongue-in-cheek fantasy. Come to the playground Israeli city of Eilat and witness the filming of Natural Dish-aster season five. How do ever-pressured producers and staff keep the ratings up? By mixing the ridiculous with the sublime.  

The cast of character is a mind-boggling mix of media-savvy chefs, production staffers at various levels of the power pyramid, Israelis connected to the production as security liaisons, Islamic terrorists, and actors pretending to be Islamic terrorists. Sure enough, the real thing takes over.

The Grand Sheba Excelsior, home of the production (and not yet open to the public), is the scene of several crimes against sobriety.

Sexual appetites are as much on display as foodies lusting for taste sensations. The competition for climbing the executive ladder of the production company is as cutthroat as any kitchen rivalry.

Perhaps only Jeff Oliver could dream up the possibility of a cooking challenge like “baking bread while running through the desert almost getting murdered by slave owners.”

As the aficionados of cooking competitions know only too well, the televised production often offsets the action with the voices of the contestants as they are interviewed before or after that action. Oliver has a lot of fun with this, interspersing his main action with slices of interviews that reveal his characters’ attitudes.

He also has a lot of fun with puns and improbabilities. One of the competitive teams, “Team Mis En Bouche,” prepares a “deconstructed Seder plate” that includes a Palestinian touch to suggest “a time of racial harmony, without walls, and Arabs were one with the Jews.” It doesn’t matter that one of the characters, Al-Asari, comments: “That interpretation of history is insane.” Or does it?

Jeff Oliver

The dialogue among these reasonably well-defined characters is catchy and fast-paced throughout, though sometimes a bit off-color. Oliver has an ear for language, both scripted and spontaneous, and it serves him and his readers well. Indeed, there are so many characters that is astonishing how sharply individualized they are. Catchy names and heavily underscored traits help the cause.

The character through whom Oliver gets the most mileage in revealing the enormous levels of stress and insecurity that haunts this industry is Genevieve Jennings, an executive whose position and future seem in jeopardy. Manic fear and ambition collide in her personality, but she finds a way of coming through. She gets the job done largely on her own terms. But why is she labeled with her last name in a female group including Sara, Ruti, Sharon, and Tanya?

While much of the author’s satiric direction is quickly understood, leaving the book’s structure to be basically a “can you top this” stream of frenzied ingenuity, there are enough refreshing surprises to keep readers turning pages.

One of these is the introduction of Ruchama – The Halva Queen of Eilat – who so impresses the production staff that she is invited to become a contest judge. Taking advantage of her respected skills and knowledge, the chefs compete for an unexpected prize by conjuring the most satisfactory and unusual halva recipe. And why not? Even the ones with savory features stand a chance.

Friendship, romance, and rivalry are the umbrellas under which the many and diverse relationships may be found. And, indeed, relationships undergo changes in this ultimately hopeful adventure.

Oliver knows that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is no joke, but he chooses to pretend, and invite his readers to pretend, that it is. Or that the answer might be found through humorous exploration. The punning title begins the process. You’ll have to make your own journey to discover how it ends.

About the Author:

Jeff Oliver is Vice President of Current Production at Bravo and a former executive at the Food Network, where he developed the hit series Cutthroat Kitchen and worked on other such epic culinary hits as Worst Cooks in America and The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia. He is the author of the acclaimed debut novel Failure to Thrive. Jeff lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife, Liz Blazer, and son.

Meet Jeff on Thursday, November 29 at 11:30 p.m. at the Hilton Naples, where be speaking at a special luncheon session of the Greater Naples Jewish Book Festival. For more info, check out www.jewishbookfestival.org

The review appears in the November 2018 Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Greater Naples). It is also found in several local editions of Florida Weekly.

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A speedy, short, slick, and satisfying addition to Michael Bennet detective series

Manhunt, by James Patterson with James O. Born. BookShots. 144 pages. Paperback $4.99. Kindle Ebook $3.99.

The BookShots imprint is a new line in the Little, Brown publishing domain. These are titles that are long on action, story-driven, and easy to read in an evening. Bestseller king James Patterson considers these “among his best novels of any length.” By partnering with other writers, Mr. Patterson has stepped up his productivity (which was always high).  Writing shorter books helps as well.  

These books seem aimed at readers of digital versions. As the author says, you can enjoy them “on a commute” (let’s hope this means in a vehicle you are not driving), “or even on your cell phone during breaks at work.” Indeed, there is a handy app for downloading BookShots titles to your smart phone or tablet.

This title is part of the highly successful “A Michael Bennet Story” series. Written in a partnership by two Floridians, it justifies Mr. Patterson’s recent practice of inviting a co-author to the writing party.

Its Thanksgiving Day in New York, and the action begins with Michael and almost all the members of his family are out on the street with a good view of that great institution – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Even with the hyper vigilance of the New York City Police Department, something resembling the cliché terrorist pattern occurs. A white truck slams into a crowd of spectators, and Michael barely has the time to grab and rescue his daughter Shawna.

Patterson

The driver exits his truck and shouts “Hawqala.”

Michael attempts to take control of the scene, safeguarding his family as well as others nearby. Then the driver detonates an explosive device that sends the truck’s roof thirty feet into the air, from which it crashes straight down. Pandemonium has broken loose. Oddly, there are very few patrolmen nearby. Many had been hurt, some were aiding victims, and “no one was chasing the perp.”

Michael follows the driver of the truck and is about to overtake him, but the man makes his escape.

It’s a great cityscape action sequence, ready for the movies.

Born

Being the key witness, Michael reports what he knows and works with the sketch artist. Before long, the FBI takes over the case and expects the local police to hang back yet be supportive. Michael makes an uneasy truce with agent Dan Santos, who introduces him to the gorgeous Darya Kuznetsova, the FBI’s liaison from the Russian Embassy. She convinces Michael that she can provide a valuable perspective.

It turns out that the perpetrator is most likely a Russian speaker from Kazakhstan. That news leads Michael and Darya to Russian immigrant neighborhoods where Darya’s cultural knowledge is an asset. Michael is impressed with her for standing up to the FBI team leader. She makes it clear that Russia has many more terrorist attacks to deal with than the U.S. does. Perhaps she has more than one kind of expertise to share. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 3, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 4 Naples, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Manhunt

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A towering achievement in the techno-thriller genre with a grim political vision

Tower Down, by David Hagberg. Forge. 320 pages.  Hardcover $25.99.

Book 21 in the Kirk McGarvey novel series is, among other things, a story about super-luxury real estate, the investment strategies of the super-rich, and the enormous vanity and sense of privilege that infects those who have virtually unlimited wealth. These are people whose goal is to invest their money in whatever will bring them more money. They interact with one another in a closed world, vying for seats at the parties where you meet those who can get you on the lists for the upcoming super-deals. 

Mr. Hagberg brings us a post 9/11 world in which the same American longing for the monumental that motivated radical Islam’s destruction of U.S.  symbols of superiority (exceptionalism?) is about to be repeated.

Manhattan is dotted with “pencil towers,” enormously high, narrow buildings whose huge residential compartments demand enormous prices and whose owners are literally and figuratively on top of the world. Vulnerable to winds, the towers are kept in balance by colossal counterweights – “tuned mass dampers” – that adjust to the force of the winds that would otherwise lead to the towers’ collapse.

The main developer of these towers, like his engineers and buyers, is susceptible to the technological vanity that has proven misguided in the past.

A freelance madman, code-named Al-Nassr, “the Eagle,” masterminds the collapse of one of these towers at 87th Street. Fortunately, few of the units had been sold and occupied. Still, hundreds of people are killed both inside and outside of the building. It was 9/11 revisited without the need for airplanes.

Hagberg

Or it would be if a twin tower were to be brought down. And that second step is in the works.  The target tower would collapse onto the United Nations complex. Great symbolism, eh?

Series hero Kirk McGarvey, a former CIA director (and assassin), is once again engaged to discover the details of the plot and undermine it. His theory, shared by just about no one, is that the Saudis (or perhaps one Saudi) is behind it. The purpose of the destruction is to have another attack on the U.S.  that can readily be blamed on ISIS, the main threat to Saudi Arabia’s stability. By this ruse, the Saudi schemers hope to motivate the U.S. to vastly increase its military operations against ISIS.

McGarvey’s (“Mac’s”) view is shared only by two people: his beautiful CIA operative love interest – Pete Boylan –  and Otto Rencke, a good friend who is an unusual techno-genius. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 28, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Tower Down

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Money laundering, revenge, and romance drive business-savvy novel

Entangled, by Mark Dossey. CreateSpace. 316 pages. Trade paperback $14.99. Kindle Ebook $3.99.

This new title continues the saga of Ally Kendall that debuted in “XC97” (2014). The two titles now comprise the Ally Kendall Series. Set in the corporate world, these titles provide special interest to those readers interested in business issues. In addition, Entangled gives new life to a murder mystery once thought resolved. entangledcover-ebook-2

In the earlier novel, Prestige Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Zurich, took over the much smaller Newark-based Integra, allowing the Integra-developed cancer drug XC97 to gain wide distribution quickly. A romance between Ally and Stephan Egbert, sole owner of Prestige Pharma, became red hot. Ally is the chief PR officer for the both companies, though originally an Integra executive.

A few years later, what has been going smoothly begins to fall apart on both business and personal levels. Ally questions the depth of her love for Stephan, whose hermitlike commitment to his company signals his lifestyle inflexibility. Sex is great, but Ally wonders if that’s all there is. At thirty-two, she’s contemplating a marriage with children – but this seems unlikely with Stephan. And she’d rather be living full-time in the U. S., not a change that seems possible for Stephan. Planning to cool the relationship, she is frank about this with Stephan, who is crushed by her news.

Stephan is also crushed by an explosion that brings down his huge estate, leaving him seriously injured and suddenly homeless. Shortly before, the dazzling headquarters of Prestige had been demolished by what looked like a terrorist attack.

Dossey

Dossey

One mystery has to do with the cause of the attacks and the person or persons behind them. There is no doubt that they are linked. However, at first it’s more of a mystery for the characters; readers witness the commission of the monstrous deeds.

They seem to be acts of revenge committed by someone alert to the shady history of Prestige, once run by Stephan’s father. The elder Egbert kept its balance sheet impressive by running a massive money laundering operation through it. Now the company is impoverished and disgraced – another blow to Stephan, who was entirely innocent of his father’s criminal behavior.

The game is afoot to settle old scores, and much of the plotting has to do with following the schemes and actions of relatively minor characters. The case of who murdered the Integra founder is reopened, and the events in Newark and Zurich become woven together. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 27, 2016 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 28 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Entangled

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“City of Secrets,” by Stewart O’Nan

Viking, 208 pages. Hardcover $22.00

City of Secrets is a brilliantly imagined vision of turmoil in 1945 Jerusalem. A Jewish Latvian man who survived the Russians, the Nazis, and then the Russians again has made his way to Palestine, going by the name of Brand. Like many with whom he associates, Brand’s lifeline is a passable identity document. If he is found by any Mandate official—or betrayed by those with whom he is shakily allied—Brand can readily be turned over to the British Mandate authorities. His life, like theirs, is a web of secrets.

Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O’Nan

Brand finds himself indebted to and dedicated to the Zionist revolution, and thus against most policies of the Mandate. He is part of a cell that uses violence to undermine the Mandate and bring about the Jewish State. At this time, the Irgun and the Haganah are working together rather than fighting each other. The members of the cell live in world that blends loyalty and suspicion in an explosive formula. Few know all of the elements of any planned action, and the stated plans are often disguising the real ones for security purposes. No one is fully trusted: no one is considered above cracking under torture. Undercover as an independent taxi driver, Brand may find himself ordered to pick up an accomplice at a certain location, but find another cell member there instead, perhaps with new orders to pick up someone else at another location. The security arrangements assure confusion and frustration.

They also frustrate relationships: Brand is in love with a woman working undercover for the revolution. She is capable and courageous, and she cares for Brand, but her loyalty—like his—is to the movement. His guilt brings painful dreams of Eva, his deceased wife. O’Nan brilliantly presents those dreams and visions, revealing a man haunted by his concentration camp experiences and losses. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council website, click here: City of Secrets: A Novel by Stewart O’Nan | Jewish Book Council

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This technological thriller is a fun treat not to be missed

Assassin’s Silence, by Ward Larsen. Forge. 400 pages. Hardcover $25.99.

Reading this book was almost too much fun. There is so much pleasure to be had in the appreciation of a piece of writing that reaches such a high peak of control over its many interlocking fragments. Mr. Larsen’s new technological thriller, the third installment of his David Slaton Series, is a masterful piece of plot construction and of balancing what is to be revealed and what withheld. Jammer Davis, the protagonist of another Larsen series, makes a delightful appearance, guiding the decisions of security agency heads who can barely tolerate Jammer’s disdain for protocol. ASSASSIN'SSILENCECOVER

Strange things are happening in Malta. David Slaton, an ex-Mossad assassin thought to be dead in order to protect his wife and son, is finding trouble. He finds himself encountering and eliminating the members of a team put together for the purpose of implementing a world-threatening terrorist action. But some of them find him first!

Meanwhile, in Brazil, a large, long out of use transport plane, an MD-10, has been sought, purchased, and secretly outfitted for a special mission – perhaps a one-time mission. It is holding in its enormous cargo tanks a huge quantity of radioactive material. And it is headed to the Middle East.

Larsen

Larsen

Ward Larsen — by shifting perspectives, locations, and expectations – keeps the reader guessing. Each new revelation about the plane’s mission, the terrorists’ motives, the execution plan, the characters’ responsibilities, and the range of technological capabilities ups the suspense while raising new questions.

In Langley, Virginia, a CIA team is trying to put the pieces together so that disaster can be forestalled and U. S. interests protected. Who lives in Virginia? David Slaton’s wife Christine and their young son. Who is involved in the CIA investigation? Jammer Davis’s sometime girlfriend, special agent Sorensen. Jammer’s slow burn through the thick layer of bureaucracy and professional turf-guarding is a treat not to be missed. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the July 6, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 7 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Assassin’s Silence

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A Spellbinding Investigation of a Terrorist Act, Its Causes, Costs, and Consequences

The Bus on Jaffa Road: A Story of Middle East Terrorism and the Search for Justice, by Mike Kelly. Lyons Press. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.95.

When two young American Jews living in Israel, Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld, boarded the Number 18 bus in Jerusalem, their immediate plans to visit Petra in Jordan disappeared. Their likely future as husband and wife vanished, as did the careers they were preparing for. Along with twenty-four other passengers, they were killed by a suicide bomber who got on this bus shortly after they did. The tragic, senseless deaths of Sara and Matthew reshaped the lives of their parents and siblings.

Loss and reshaping are central themes in journalist Mike Kelly’s brilliant telling of the short-term and longer-term story: what led to this horror, what were its consequences, what is its meaning, and what hope regarding the possibilities for peace and healing does it destroy or inspire.

Mike Kelly in Jerusalem

Mike Kelly in Jerusalem

Using his wide range of resources and interviews superbly, Mike Kelly provides us with a strong sense of what exceptional people Sara and Matthew were. Matt was taking courses at the Schechter Institute as part of his rabbinical studies. Sara was busy working in a microbiology lab and planning to do graduate studies in environmental science. They were both high-level achievers with much to contribute.

With fewer, and yet abundant resources, Kelly takes us into the actions and mind of Hassan Salameh, the bombmaker and organizer for this and other suicide bombings. Once arrested, Salameh spoke extensively and matter-of-factly about his activities, and his conversations were recorded. He wished to be sentenced to death – a rarity in Israel – but he had to accept the harsher punishment of a life sentence (technically, many many life sentences).

Salameh always claimed his motive was to thwart Israel’s occupation of Palestine, not to murder individual people. It was just their bad luck to be in the way. He believed his actions to be sanctioned by the Koran and Allah.

busjaffa

A major part of the book closely examines the path toward finding some kind of justice for the bereaved. This pursuit was initiated by Stephen Flatow, father of a young woman who perished in a suicide attack almost a year before the number 18 bus incident that killed Sara and Matthew. This story line covers many years, and ends with a victory of sorts in which the absent defendant – Iran – was fined an astronomical sum in a civil trial that tests a very special piece of legislation that come into being during the Clinton administration.

The concept: make the funders and advocates of such terrorist acts suffer financially as a way of discouraging further such acts. Provide those awarded the judgments resources to take further political action.

The problem: enforcing payment, an objective undermined by other political goals of the Clinton White House.

Sara’s mother Arline (her father had died when Sara was eleven with two younger sisters) and the Eisenfelds were already bonded. Stephen Flatow became part of their emotional family and their mentor and exemplary figure through the years of struggling to shape public opinion and government policy to bring about significant action. After Flatow’s case is successful, Arline Duker and the Eisenfelds initiate a similar one that is also successful

Kelly’s exploration of the legal personalities, especially the presiding judge and the lawyers making the cases against Iran, is finely crafted and suspenseful. So is his portrayal of the emotional roller coaster that the plaintiffs endure.

It is inevitable that readers will encounter famous names in a book that uses its key figures to represent important historical dynamics on the bumpy road toward possible peace. Sketches of Yassar Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, Hassan Salameh’s collaborators, and several high profile Israeli leaders amplify the Bus 18 story. So do the appearances of U. S. government leaders like Senator Frank Lautenberg and multi-task upper echelon Clinton official Stuart Eizenstat.

Mike Kelly’s skill, besides digging into so much material and amplifying our knowledge base through his own interviews, is in mastering it all and weaving such a tight fabric of understanding elegantly expressed. One could say that this is just a great book about a suicide bombing. Or one could say this a great book about everything that is touched by a suicide bombing – by all the suicide bombings.

This review appears in the January 2015 issue of the Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte County), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota/Manatee).

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Garage sale pivotal in terrorist plot set in affluent suburb

Garage Sale Diamonds, by Suzi Weinert.  Barringer Publishers. 464 pages. Trade paper $15.95.

The sequel to “Garage Sale Stalker” will please fans of Ms. Weinert’s first novel, which was adapted for a television movie called “Garage Sale Mystery” that aired on the Hallmark Movie Channel this past September.  “Diamonds” continues the delightfully drawn domestic tensions of the Shannon family as the three generations get ready to assemble for Thanksgiving. However, in the week or so before the holiday, danger finds them. And, yes, a garage sale has something to do with it.  DiamondCov

As readers step into the day-to-day details of domestic life in McLean, Virginia, which means Jennifer and Jason Shannon constructively interacting with their several adult children and growing number of grandchildren (affectionately labeled as the “Grands”), some bad news comes to the family. The woman next door dies under mysterious circumstances and her husband, a good friend of the Shannons, is despondent. This secondary plot line develops slowly and in unexpected ways to a stunning conclusion.

More bad news arrives: the town of McLean is targeted by Islamic terrorists as part of a nationwide plan to launch a massive attack in similar locations across the United States.

Meet Ahmed, a man whose mission to die for Allah was seeded in childhood when he was told that his parents were killed by American Jews. Raised, educated, and trained for eventual action in a terrorist camp, he is now secretly (and illegally) transported to McLean where he meets others who had been planted in the states long ago and brought to McLean with Ahmed to accomplish their mission – a mission for which all are ready to give their lives.

Ahmed is hosted by a Muslim couple. The husband is a true believer in terrorist jihad. The wife is an American woman who, while a convert to Islam, is not at all an extremist. She lives in fear of her abusive husband. Their gorgeous daughter, Khadija, is the linchpin in the terrorism story line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Khadija is at once Muslim and thoroughly American – though to her fundamentalist father she is a disgrace. Her presence and manner are totally disorienting to Ahmed, who is at first unable to balance his long indoctrination into radical Islam thought and behavior with the liberating, humanistic values that Khadija both represents and articulates with passion and clarity.

Resistant to having his long-engrained identity threatened, he nevertheless takes the first steps: he begins to think for himself.

His attraction to Khadija is so strong that there is hope for a new Ahmed to emerge, but how can he extricate himself from his mission without being tortured and murdered as a traitor?

And what does any of this have to do with Jennifer Shannon and her family? Hey, it’s the diamonds!

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 22, 2014 edition of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 23 Bonita Springs edition, click here Florida Weekly – Weinert Diamonds 1 and here Florida Weekly – Weinert Diamonds 2.

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Eco-terrorists threaten nuclear plant in James W. Hall’s latest

“Going Dark,” by James W. Hall. Minotaur Books. 320 pages. $25.99.

There is no more delightful companion for a habitual reader than a new book by James W. Hall. Even taking into account the spectrum of darkness signaled by Mr. Hall’s perfect and provocative title, readers will have to agree that the maturing of Thorn, the author’s continuing character, is in itself a delight. In addition, Mr. Hall’s virtuoso manipulations of plot, theme, setting, and atmosphere will draw waves of delighted appreciation from alert, perceptive readers.  GoingDark

The plot concerns an environmentalist group’s campaign against nuclear power plants. Activists from the Miami cell of a loose federation called ELF (Earth Liberation Front) are preparing to take a major stand. Their goal: to shut down the Turkey Point nuclear power plant that feeds electricity to a large swath of Florida. If they are successful, “lights out” will be the least of the consequences.

Flynn Moss, a young man who is Thorn’s recently discovered son, has determined to do something useful with his life, and he has chosen the ELF group and this mission as his own. Little did he know the degree to which it has been infiltrated by extremist nut-cases who have a far more devastating goal: nuclear disaster.

Hall,JamesW._CreditMaggieEvansSilverstein

Two of the local ELF leaders are Leslie Levine and Cameron Prince.  Leslie’s concerns include the survival of the crocodiles that live in the cooling canals of the power plant.  The novel opens with a scene in which Leslie is following a mother croc to where she had buried her eggs. Cameron, whose family is legendary in the Miami / Keys area, is filming the activity. Suddenly, the croc mother is alerted to her presence and Leslie is gone!

Leslie surfaces later in the novel (don’t be surprised). She and Cameron are heading up the shut-down of Turkey Point. They prepare to counter the forces arrayed to protect the plant and head off any threats. The plant’s own security force is led by a maniacal schemer who seems bent on having the plant under attack so he can be its heroic savior. A federal task force headed by Thorn’s old FBI friend Frank Sheffield is assigned to thwart the suspected sabotage. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 4, 2013 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 5 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here Florida Weekly – Going Dark

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Ward Larsen’s techno-thriller flies high

“Fly by Wire,” by Ward Larsen. Oceanview Publishing. 312 pages. $25.95.

Sarasota author Ward Larsen’s Frank “Jammer” Davis is a no-nonsense kind of guy. Like his creator a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Davis is impatient with the bureaucratic molasses that often clogs urgent work. Now employed by the National Transportation Safety Board, Davis is called to an emergency meeting of aviation and security experts to find out why a new C-500 cargo aircraft has plummeted straight down and crashed in Central France, its systems seemingly compromised with no apparent cause. He immediately distrusts the inexperienced French academic who has been chosen to lead the team, especially as the Frenchman pushes too quickly to steer the investigation toward pilot error. Davis pushes for more facts, more action, and less protocol. 

Before long, Davis finds himself partnering with an intelligent and attractive CIA agent, Anna Sorensen, who is having trouble maintaining her cover as a Honeywell Avionics employee. At first distrustful and competitive, both sense that a romance might be building. Davis, a true professional and a two-year widower raising a teenage daughter, has to feel his way into this relationship. A self-confessed “visual guy,” he respects Sorensen’s skills and savvy while becoming more and more attracted to what meets the eye. They gain each other’s trust and make important discoveries, investigatory and otherwise, independently and together.

The initial emergency becomes overshadowed by another one, at first thought to be unrelated. Almost at the same instant, mid-sized oil refiners have been bombed across the world, creating economic upheaval and worldwide panic.    

Mr. Larsen plots his novel along several tracks, one of which brings us into the world of the Islamic terrorists who are involved in the initial suicide bombings, a charismatic leader called Caliph, a furtive and thoroughly unattractive Arab woman who seems to be an important messenger, and a cancer-ridden software genius who engineered CargoAir’s C-500 onboard systems. 

As the pace of the novel accelerates, Davis helps make the connection between the plane crash and the refinery bombings, uncovering a surprising and monumental conspiracy. When higher-ups cannot seem to move on the crisis, Davis bullies them into action, even chewing out the President of the United States along the way. 

The unraveling of the airplane calamity and the refinery conspiracy involves a lot of techno-talk. While one might think this element would slow things down, it doesn’t. Ward Larsen takes readers into the world of technology with clarity, economy, and sure-handedness. He makes it fun to witness Davis putting the pieces together.  Throughout, the author reveals information at just the right pace to keep the suspense building without giving anything away prematurely.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the September 15-21, 2010 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 16-22 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Ward Larsen pdf

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